Blu-ray Review: Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5

During World War II, Universal revived many of their classic monsters including an all out monster mash with Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man making numerous combo movies. They brought back The Mummy and The Invisible Man in numerous sequels. Besides reviving the undead icons, the studio created a new monster for the times. Paula, the Ape Woman came about when scientist attempted to turn a gorilla into a human being. Captive Wild Woman became such a success at the time that the studio quickly produced two sequels. Paula, the Ape girl found herself over the decades not quite getting the same amount of attention as her horrific peers. Now all three of her films are being boxed together along with a similarly themed The Monster and The Girl in Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5. This the ultimate quadruple feature of what can go wrong when scientists mix humans and apes.

The Monster And the Girl (1941 – 65 minutes) starts off as what seems like a straight crime story. Scot Webster (The Leech Woman‘s Philip Terry) is on trial for killing a mobster. How did a simple small town church organist end up fighting for his life against homicide charges? Turns out his sister Susan (The Baron of Arizona‘s Ellen Drew) had big city dreams and hit the highway to a land of skyscrapers and wild times. She quickly meets a man who after a whirlwind romance leads to a quickie marriage. She’s in bliss in her honeymoon until she learns that her husband doesn’t really exist, but their outrageous room service bill is legit. She ends up being forced into a life of prostitution for mobsters who hold her debt. Scot comes to the city wanting to free her sister, but ends up on trial for a dead mobster. Instead of a fair trial, Scot finds himself railroaded all the way to death row in record time. Then in a strange twist Dr. Perry (The Mad Ghoul‘s George Zucco) steps up from being a courtroom observer to make a deal to get access to Scot’s body after his execution. Turns out he’s got a mad scientist project that involves putting Scot’s brain into a gorilla. What will Scot do when he realizes he’s gone ape for real? The Monster and the Girl is a remarkable film for what it’s able to merge in a barely hour long movie. This could be the only film run on both MeTV’s Svengoolie and TCM’s Noir Alley. The real star of the movie is Skipper the dog. Skipper really gives a performance that merges human and animal as much as Scot stuck inside the gorilla body. The Monster and the Girl was a Paramount film that Universal acquired when they bought their rival’s vault in order to syndicate to television.

Captive Wild Woman (1943 – 61 minutes) launched the trilogy of films involving Paula, the Ape Woman. Famous animal trainer Fred Mason (Gunsmoke‘s Milburn Stone) returns from Africa with a new cop of animals for his massively popular show. Among his imports is a gorilla named Cheela (The Hairy Ape‘s Ray Corrigan). Mason’s fiancée Beth Colman (The Wolf Man‘s Evelyn Ankers) has medical issues and is being treated by endocrinologist Dr. Sigmund Walters (House of Frankenstein‘s John Carradine). Walters wants Cheela for an experiment he’s been doing at the lab and won’t take no for an answer. His nurse Miss Strand (The Wolf Man‘s Fay Helm) is shocked by the initial results of the experiment that involves mingling human glands inside the gorilla. She doesn’t want things to go any further which leads the doctor into making her even more a part of his grand plan. With new internal organs, Cheela transforms into a woman that he calls Paula (Tarzan and the Leopard Woman‘s Acquanetta). The doctor takes his creation to Mason’s winter circus camp to see how she reacts around people and animals. Mason is attracted by this strange woman’s ability to communicate with animals. Paula has a deep seeded hatred of Beth. This love triangle is going to get hairy fast. Captive Wild Woman has a perfect mix of mad scientist with animal training. There’s a bit of strangeness seeing Doc from Gunsmoke as the dashing hero. Although all the long shots of him working with lions and tigers is really circus legend Clyde Beatty cracking the whip. Acquanetta proves to be more than exotic in the film that lets her get a bit animalistic on the screen.

Jungle Woman (1944 – 61 minutes) gets a little artsy with the story told in flashback as Dr. Carl Fletcher (Calling Dr. Death‘s J. Carrol Naish) confesses to killing Paula (Acquanetta). He recounts how he was there at the end of Captive Wild Woman and snatched Cheela’s body when everyone thought she was dead. Turns out she wasn’t dead. He gets his hands on Dr. Walters’ experiment notes and successfully transforms Cheela back into Paula. Things once more get out of control when she develops feelings for Dr. Fletcher’s son. She also hates his fiancé and it brings out the animal in her. Jungle Woman seems to hint that we’ve come to the end of Paula’s cinematic legacy, but you’d be wrong.

Jungle Captive (1945 – 63 minutes) opens with Dr. Stendahl (Dracula’s Daughter‘s Otto Kruger) successfully bringing a dead rabbit back to life. He’s ready to revive a bigger project and has sent Moloch (The Brute Man‘s Rondo Hatton) down to the morgue. Moloch won’t be stopped by anyone in the coroner’s office in grabbing the corpse of Paula. He brings the ape body back to the lab and Stendahl uses Dr. Walters’ notes to once more turn the ape into a woman (The Cisco Kid Returns‘ Vicky Lane). Instead of the previous fiancé issues from the first two films, the revived Paula finds herself tangled up with Moloch. While Stendahl imagines he’s in control, his attempt to make the Paula experiment work like Walters intended doesn’t go as planned. Why no Acquanetta in the final installment? Turns out she parted with Universal contract by the time the film went before the camera. At least the producers were able to give us the legendary Rondo Hatton in a leading role.

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5 is a hairy affair. These are four films that don’t get much action on Svengoolie so they feel like a deep dive in the vault. This is a joy for those horror fans who can’t get enough of guys inside gorilla suits. The Paula, the Ape Woman trilogy finally has achieved a level of respect on this boxset since previously only the first film had come out on a DVD set and the other two were manufacture on demand discs. Now you can sit back and watch them all at once in 1080p. The Monster and the Girl works well with the trilogy so on a hot summer afternoon, you can sit back on the sofa in an air conditioned living room and take in the gorilla action.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The 1080p black and white transfers brings out the fur detail in the gorilla suit. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. You’ll hear those ape noises when the gorillas go on a rampage. The movies are subtitled.

Audio Commentaries are featured on all four films from various historians. The Monster and the Girl lets Tom Weaver and Steve Kronenberg discuss the meddling of mad scientist with mobsters. Captive Wild Woman has Tom Weaver go solo. Jungle Woman gives us Gregory William Mank. Jungle Captive gets broken down by Scott Gallinghouse. All the tracks are very informative about the films, cast and crew.

Captive Wild Woman Theatrical Trailer (1:07) makes us question if she is a woman or a beast. We how see is torn between her jungle instincts and her human emotions. Universal billed it as “Stranger Than the Weirdest Horror!” This is the re-issue trailer.

Image Gallery (1:56) contains production stills for Captive Wild Woman. There’s a series of photos with Acquanetta and Cheela together. There’s posters and newspaper ads for the release.

Image Gallery (2:31) for Jungle Woman includes press stills, model poses of Acquanetta, posters and lobby cards.

Jungle Captive Trailer (1:10) really sells us on Rondo Hatton as his Brute character. We’re promised “Monstrous Horror!”

Scream Factory presents Universal Horror Collection: Volume 5. Directed by: Stuart Heisler, Edward Dmytryk, Reginald LeBorg & Harold Young. Starring: Ellen Drew, Robert Paige, Paul Lukas, George Zucco, Evelyn Ankers, John Carradine, Milburn Stone, Acquanetta, J. Carrol Naish, Vicky Lane, Otto Kruger, Amelita Ward & Rondo Hatton . Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 4 Blu-rays. Released: June 16, 2020.

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